Spitfire’s revenge: A rebuttal of the anti-Spitfire article, by Jon Lake

 

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In his Hush-Kit article Matthew Willis charges that the Spitfire was a “war-losing weapon”, and that it was “the wrong aircraft at the wrong time.” I would counter that this is largely revisionist nonsense – and although he makes a handful of good points these are things that are discernible only with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, and there are an awful lot of charges which do not, in my view, hold water.

Matthew says that: “It’s pretty well accepted these days that the Battle of Britain was won by the Hurricane, and there’s no reason to suspect that more Hurricanes wouldn’t have defeated Goering’s armada just as soundly, if not more so.

I think he’s wrong on both counts. The Hurricane was undeniably important, and shot down more enemy aircraft than the Spitfire, but that was inevitable, given that there were more of them, often flown by more experienced pilots and squadrons, and that they were often sent against the easier targets – bombers, dive bombers and Bf 110s. And there is little doubt that a Fighter Command exclusively equipped with Spitfires would have done even better.

Mr Willis says that the Spitfire’s narrow-track undercarriage invited accidents. Technically, it did, though in practice, the natural fear of ground looping accidents failed to materialise – perhaps because we were using grass airfields with unlimited runway directions.

Mr Willis says that the Spitfire’s roll rate wasn’t competitive. That’s exaggerated, and fails to account for the fact that its turn rate, turn radius, and rate of onset were class leading, while the Spitfire pilot enjoyed an unrivalled all round view. The Spitfire’s only serious drawbacks were not mentioned by Matthew – one being the engine’s tendency to cut out under negative g. This is a problem that was easily solved, and which is over-stated by non-pilots. Even if you have fuel injection it’s almost always better to roll inverted and pull hard than to try and push into a steep dive, since you can always sustain more positive g than negative…..

Spitfire-Mark-III

The other Spitfire weakness was its rifle-calibre machine gun armament – but this again was easily solved.

More contentious is Matthew’s claim that you could have built “two-and-a-half Hurricanes” or “three-and-a-bit Messerschmitt Bf 109s”* for one Spitfire. This seems to based on Correlli Barnett, who also managed to claim that there was no heavy electrical engineering industry in the UK despite the fact that we developed the world’s first synchronous national grid in the 1920s and electrified the Southern Railway in the 1930s. The Spitfire airframe undeniably took more production man hours than the fabric, wood and tubular metal Hurricane – and was less simple to repair as a consequence (though factory repairs to the Spitfire were cheaper). In any case, both types were limited by the production time of their engines, armament, etc.

A Lightning pilot’s guide to flying and fighting here. Find out the most effective modern fighter aircraft in within-visual and beyond-visual range combat. The greatest fictional aircraft here. An interview with stealth guru Bill Sweetman here. The fashion of aircraft camo here. Interview with a Super Hornet pilot here. Most importantly, a pacifist’s guide to warplanes here. F-35 expose here

Hurricane of fire
Moreover, Mr Willis avoids the fact that while the Hurricane was more damage tolerant to light damage from machine gun ammunition, it also caught fire much more easily (thanks to all the wood, fabric and dope on the rear half of the aircraft, plus two fuel tanks in the wings), and what would often be minor damage to some parts of a Spitfire would be fatal to the same areas on a Hurricane. One of the top plastic surgeons said that he could tell a Hurricane pilot by the severity and type of burns he suffered. The cockpit area on a Hurricane was not well sealed and the airflow would often ‘torch’ burning fuel at the unfortunate pilot.

What were the best fighters at the outbreak of the war? The surprising answer is here.

It is true that Spitfire production lagged behind Hurricane production for the whole of the Battle of Britain period, but we never ran short of aircraft during the Battle – availability of pilots was the critical shortage in 1940!

Matthew charges that by the end of the Battle Spitfires were being shot down at a faster rate than Hurricanes. This was perhaps inevitable, given that the Spitfire’s job was to tackle the Bf109s, and it’s certainly true that every Luftwaffe victory was claimed to be a Spitfire – since such a claim had more prestige than shooting down a lowly Hurricane or Defiant. The Messerschmitts were there to defend the bombers, i.e. to shoot down the Hurricanes, and it was the Spitfire’s job to stop them doing that. The Spitfires performance in combat was better than that of the Hurricane, and the Spitfire was at least equal (if not better) than the Bf 109E. The Hurricane was not. Replacing Spitfires with more Hurricanes (as Matthew would have preferred) would not have succeeded in achieving that.Spitfire_22

 

One distinguished former Battle of Britain pilot has said that by the time the Battle began, the Hurricane was already obsolescent, and others have said that sending young pilots out in Hurricanes was tantamount to murder! That may be a bit much, but there is no doubt that the Hurricane was soon pretty much outclassed in the air-to-air role and had no remaining development potential, whereas the Spitfire V and Spitfire IX were decisive developments that proved capable of dealing with the Bf109G and Fw190. The Hurricane could never have been developed to achieve the same performance. Hardly surprising, since it was, in many respects, little more than a monoplane Hawker Fury.

The Spitfire was much better suited to improvement and development, resulting in the succession of Spitfire variants, which allowed the type to be continuously improved, rapidly incorporating lessons from production and combat experience.

This is why they built more than 23,000 Spitfires, which remained viable throughout the war, and afterwards, while the Hurricane effectively left active service as a fighter in 1943, remaining in service only in the ground attack role – in which it was outshone by other types. They built about 14,000 Hurricanes as a consequence.

We come to the crux of Willis’ argument with his statement that: “the priority that was placed on Spitfire production in 1940 (as well as Hurricanes, to be fair) pulled effort from other services, effectively hamstringing the Fleet Air Arm for years and preventing the development of newer designs.

This sort of stuff always seems to come from someone with a Navy connection. The Fleet Air Arm suffered because it was viewed as being a sideshow – a diversion from the main effort of defending the UK and later of carrying the war to the German homeland. In retrospect, this was probably an entirely sensible prioritisation. But the poor state of the FAA had little to do with the Spitfire.

The over-rated Mustang

Finally, Willis claims that it would have made more sense to switch British production to the Mustang, which he seems to have unqualified regard for.

While it’s true that (once given the Merlin engine) the Mustang did have the legs to take it to Berlin it was actually a remarkably poor air-to-air fighter, ill-suited to fighter-versus-fighter combat. I would draw Matthew’s attention to the excellent work done by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots in their evaluation of the major wartime US fighter types by modern test pilots. The Mustang proved to be a poor gunnery platform, and an aircraft prone to departure when manoeuvred hard. It was rated behind the F6F, P-47 and F4U.

Read Matt Willis’ fascinating response to this here,  the original article ‘Dismantling the Spitfire’ can be found here.

Jon Lake has written many books including, Tornado: the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft and The Battle of Britain. 

  • Mr Willis has since made the following corrections:

    “In the second paragraph: change ‘for that amount of effort you could have two-and-a-half Hurricanes or three-and-a-bit Messerschmitt Bf 109s’ to ‘for that amount of effort you could have one-and-a-half Hurricanes or three-and-a-bit Messerschmitt Bf 109s’ (bold just to emphasise the change, shouldn’t be bold in the published version)

    In the fifth paragraph: change ‘Who knows what might have been achieved with three aircraft produced for every Spitfire?’ to ‘Who knows what might have been achieved with two or three aircraft produced for every Spitfire?’ (as above re bold).

    I’ve developed the arguments a fair bit since the original piece was posted, but it wouldn’t be fair to go chopping and changing it now. I stand by everything I wrote apart from the bits above that need correcting.”

You may also enjoy top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an alternate history of the TSR.2, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is the The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker.

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39 comments

  1. Pingback: Dismantling the Spitfire myth | Hush-Kit
  2. Glen

    Interesting stuff yes a very good defense of the spitfire. The Hurricane was called the aircraft that won the battle Britain by Flight magazine I guess because as we all know it shot down more aircraft. Only because there more of them. I also find interesting that the P 51 was a poor gun platform that shows the poor quality of German pilots in the last 12 months of the war. Also the Mustang use sheer weight of numbers to keep the luftwafe on the ground

    • chibipaul

      “I guess because as we all know it shot down more aircraft. ONLY because there more of them.”
      (My emphasis)

      That is a rather ungracious way to treat the Hurricane, it’s pilots and ground crew.
      The RAF chose the Spitfire in preference to the Hurricane in the original MOD specification request for a fighter.
      It was ONLY because Hawkers backed the Hurricane as a private venture that the RAF subsequently took notice and thankfully decided to make an order too.

      Whatever the percentage of Hurricanes to Spitfires was, it was still the aircraft that downed more enemy aircraft.
      It could be argued that without the Hurricane, there would not have been sufficient fighters for the BoB.

      The point is that in the Spitfire still gets all the credit for winning the BoB, which is a fallacy
      The Hurricane deserves its rightful place as an excellent fighter of it’s time and for recognition by the public for the important role it played in defeating the Luftwaffe in 1940.

    • Stewart Davies

      While most of the fighter planes of WW-II had many defects, You should not count them as decisive factors because they were all flown with those defectws, or more likely in spite of them! Then the effectiveness of the plane should be judged by it’s combat record against the planes of it’s time and some weight must be given to the numbers of EAC shot down! In this list, the top gun is each of the last three models of the Me-109, then the P-51, Wildcat, and P-47, IIRC. The FW-190, Hellcat, P-40, P-39, and Yak-3. IIRC. ( in Ruski hands!) They all fit in the top ten list before the Spitfire, which like the P-38 does not make the top ten list at all.
      Secondly, IIRC, the BoB was fought with single stage engines in all of the Allied Fighters, EXCEPT the P-38. So if we compare the BoB Spit with it’s single stage blower Vs the early P-51 with it’s single stage Allison engine, The Spit falls way behind in almost any category. Real speed as equipped is 348 for the BoB Spit Vs 390 MPH for the P-51 with the Allison engine.
      Lastly, if we were to chose the best plane to fly our own butts in, then there are really only two choices, the P-38 and the P-47! The P-38 has so much going for it that the only thing I will say is that it was far and away the very best gun platform of the War! The P-47 is in second place because of it’s performance, rugged construction and weapons fit. The P-38 flew before the war and could have be fielded warts and all, to be the top dog early in the war as the only 400 MPH fighter! When used as a Zoom-N-Boom plane it is WO Peer! The P-47 was a close second place because it was faster in real terms than most of the rest and more maneuverable than the -38.

  3. Pingback: Why the Spitfire’s place in history of World War II should be challenged. | Hush-Kit
  4. blowback

    “It was rated behind the F6F, P-47 and F4U.”
    So what? In the air war over Germany, there was only one aircraft available to the USAAF that had the range that was essential to victory in this major campaign. The F6F came close on range but was more valuable flying off carriers in the Pacific. and the P-47 was probably more valuable in the ground attack role. Without the P-51, the Luftwaffe would never have suffered the decimation (actually 17%) in early 1944 that it never came close to recovering from.
    As for the British building P-51s, I suspect that given the notorious inefficiency of British industry, each P-51 would have taken the same time to build as the Spitfire, so we should have just got American ones on Lend-Lease.

    • f1b0nacc1

      All correct, but the F6F lacked the maneuverability of the Mustang, the P-47 lacked its range, and the F4U had terrible stability problems throughout its life that made it problematic at best for inexperienced pilots. The P-51 had its own problems (most notably its liquid cooled engine which made it quite vulnerable to damage, and its stability issues as a gun platform), but its range, firepower, and relative cheapness to build and maintain more than balanced these out.

      • Stewart

        The “Poor Stability” issue of the P-51 is a false argument. It is caused by the same design defect that caused the late marks of Spitfire to be called “Snaky, twitchy and poor gun platforms” but in all cases it was more stable and a better gun platform than the Spitfire.
        That defect was adding more area ahead of the CG by increasing the number and width of the propeller blades to cope with more power. This was much easier to fix in the Mustang because it was inherently more stable than the Spit and it was such a big problem in the Spit that the early Mk-XIV, with it’s five bladed prop, failed to get a single victory until a year after it’s introduction into regular squadron service! Take a close look at the late Mk-XIV with it’s huge “Spiteful” tail to see what I am talking about.
        Lastly, you talk about maneuverability as if turn rate were the most important factor, when it should be last on everyone’s list! Think about it for a minute. Biplanes could out turn any monoplane, why were they not in service after the start of the war? A more clinical definition of maneuverability would be how much volume of air space can it dominate in any given time? Given this factor, the P-38 comes out on top, followed by the Me-109 and FW-190.
        Since these rankings are much closer to the records of the three planes, I would state that it is a better way to rank a planes value.
        The simple fact is that the Spit was a mediocre fighter plane that cost way too much to manufacture and had serious defects of design that precluded it’s effectiveness as a weapon. Look at K/L Ratios Between the Spit and the EA it fought at any given time during the war. In the BoB it was barely ahead of the Luftwaffe and the main reason was throttle restrictions due to fuel state over the target which strongly favored the Spit and Hurry! But when the Spit flew across the channel to attack the Nazis, it’s K/L ratio was into HUGE negative numbers. ( So, IIRC, the Spit BoB K/L Ratio was 1.2/1 and between 1/4.5-1/7 over France after flying across the channel!)
        Lastly, lets talk about weapons fitment. The Spit came with eight Rifle Caliber MGs at the start of the war and was quickly upgraded after some initial problems, to two 20 mms and four RCMGs. The increase in installed weight and polar moment of inertia reduced the Spit’s rate of roll, turn and Specific Excess Thrust in all flight regimes. The RCMG was easily countered by very thin armor plates making it’s retention a loosing factor. The 20 mm on the other hand had a very much reduced rate of fire and this caused a tremendous reduction in the potential damage caused per unit of time. This was exacerbated by the mixture of ammo types because the only 20 mm ammo type that would pierce the thin armor was AP, which was only 1/3 of all shells fired. While the 2/3rds of shells loaded with HE/HE-I were more effective against larger bombers and transports, they were much less effective Vs the high density fighters. ( HE/HE-I shells can not injure the pilot, or ignite the fuel WO hitting in the cockpit, or right in, or adjacent to the fuel tank! So the total number of projectiles that might cause a critical hit are 1/2 of 1/3 of all 20 mms to the pilot and unless the target aspect is off angle by a substantial amount, could not reach the fuel tank at all because they would not perforate the seat back armor!) ( I state 1/2 of 1/3 because only 1/2 of wing guns will be pointed at the target at all ranges except that at which they are Zeroed, or Harmonized!)
        The counter argument that the Spit got four 20s later is easily countered by looking at most of the war time pictures which show the Spit-C with only two 20s and a capped off gun station on each wing to limit the adverse roll rate effects of the heavier weapon installation. If four 20s was such a good idea, why did so few pilots choose to install all four big guns? The simple answer is that the extra weight reduced performance such that few pilots wanted them!

    • Stewart

      The Spit took so long to build because of it’s design, ( All Curves!) and joining methods. The Mustang was so quick to build because it was just the opposite. In fact it was one of the quickest to build planes of the war because it was designed along auto maker’s building systems. (Separate component builds assembled on the line as complete units! IE, wings, fuse, tail & gear, Etc.) IIRC, and do not count this as final as my memory is shot to hell from AO, but the P-51 only took about 3,200 hours to build and English workers could have built them three or four for each spit, but suffered from NIH! It was a Government choise!

    • Stewart

      Do not forget the P-38 as the longest ranged plane of the group. It was also the very best Zoom & Boom plane of the war!

  5. Stuart Willard

    Various arguments here. Rather than the Hurricane for example you would arguably have been better having the Westland Whirlwind in numbers with its nose mounted cannon armament to take on the bombers and certainly was a better ground attack aircraft later in the war than the Hurricane ever could be especially if it had been developed rather than left at Mk 1 for reasons pointless to go into here.
    However the biggest flaw in the anti Spitfire argument lays in the fact that the RAF would have had no acceptable fighter at all in the post BofB period as the Typhoon proposed to replace both fighters by 1942 (the Spitfire had only a very limited initial order because of this plan which limited initial production) simply wasn’t available. The Mustang would have been no better alternative as an Air Defence fighter over Britain, the Channel or even the French coast (its range was its main advantage) and no serious replacement came along until the Tempest effectively solved the Typhoon problems relatively late in the War. So the Spitfire was developed further simply because there was no effective, better replacement or alternative until 1944 and even then nothing in sufficient numbers. Yes the Martin Baker MB3 was a fantastic aircraft potentially, but it didn’t fly till 1942 and would have struggled to become available before the Tempest, whatever effort had been applied to it. It is significant indeed that the prototype crashed because of the usual suspect Sabre engine which itself was a major part of the reason no next generation fighter was available post BofB of course. So it seems the Spitfire was indeed a vital ingredient to the RAF if not in the BofB then certainly in the years that followed. It doesn’t bear contemplation that the Hurricane was all that they had by 1942.

  6. Ari

    Spitfire was certainly not a war loosing fighter but on the other hand there is no reason in denying the fact that its mythical status is inflated ..German pilots didn’t fear Spitfire, they were more worried about the amount nof fuel in their tanks after 10 minutes of dog fighting in British airspace.

    • Stewart

      You argument is only valid because the British Government would not buy the better plane because it was foreign and they did not want to cripple the domestic aircraft industry.
      The ‘stang was the better plane on every count that mattered. Rate and radius of turn are very poor choices to place at the top of the plane’s attribute list! A biplane could out maneuver any Spitfire with ease! But they all went the way of the Dodo because maneuverability based on turn rate and radius was a flawed concept! What is and was important back then was rate of transient response which except in the vertical plane was decidedly below par. It had arguably the lowest rate of roll in the war and when later models were equipped with four and five bladed props, it was only marginally stable until the installation of the so called “Spiteful” tail.
      More arguments here;
      By 1942, Supermarine designers had realized that the characteristics of the Spitfire’s wing at high Mach numbers might become a limiting factor in increasing the aircraft’s high-speed performance. The main problem was the aeroelasticity of the Spitfire’s wing; at high speeds the relatively light structure behind the strong leading edge torsion box would flex, changing the airflow and limiting the maximum safe diving speed to 480 mph (772 km/h) IAS.[nb 1] If the Spitfire were to be able to fly higher and faster, a radically new wing would be needed.[1]

      Joseph Smith and the design team were aware of a paper on compressibility, published by A D Young of the R.A.E, in which he described a new type of wing section; the maximum thickness and camber would be much nearer to the mid-chord than conventional airfoils and the nose section of this airfoil would be close to an ellipse.[nb 2] In November 1942, Supermarine issued Specification No 470 which (in part) stated:

      A new wing has been designed for the Spitfire with the following objects: 1) To raise as much as possible the critical speed at which drag increases, due to compressibility, become serious. 2) To obtain a rate of roll faster than any existing fighter. 3) To reduce wing profile drag and thereby improve performance.

      The wing area has been reduced from 242 sq ft (22.5 m2) to 210 sq ft (20 m2) and a thickness chord ratio of 13% has been used over the inner wing where the equipment is stored. Outboard the wing tapers to 8% thickness/chord at the tip.[1]

      What is not stated is that the aeroelasticity also made the guns very much less effective than those same type and number of guns in the Hurry! They also realized that the turning radius and rate of turn were not critical points in the curves and reduced the area to make it both faster and better load carrying!

  7. Stewart

    Many of the assumptions you make are flawed. Compared to the Spit, the Mustang was much the better gun platform. So was the Hurry. As to the substantial difference in AC performance between the three planes mentioned, the single stage blower Mustang was vastly superior to either of the single stage blown British planes! Every critique of the Hurry compared to the Spit goes double for the early ‘stang. The ‘stang could out roll both of them with ease and was more than 50 MPH faster than the BoB Spit. It had a better rate of climb and higher ceiling than the Mk-I,II,III Spit. Later when the Two stage blown Merlin was installed in the Spit, it became much the second best plane as the single stage ‘stang was still faster, but not quicker in the climb than the Spit Mk-V. The ‘stang had a superior ordinance fitment during the entire war as espoused by General Chuck Yeager! See his U-Tube interview!
    Furthermore, the ‘stang was very much more durable than either the Hurry, or Spit. And you got the quote wrong, it was Spit Pilots burns that were easy to tell! Both the ‘stang and Hurry had their fuel out in the wings were it could not burn the pilot! This was a major defect of the design! A single rifle caliber tracer, or incendiary bullet in the fuel tank destroyed the Spit and it’s pilot most of the time. While any fuel fed fire was almost always fatal to the plane, most American pilots had a chance to bail out and live burn free. I would as someone who’s Google-foo was much better than mine to find out how many spit pilots were captured by the Nazis Vs how many American pilots. A simple reduction analysis could then deduce survivability ratios of the planes?

  8. Oldbutnotwise

    There is a lot of comparisons going on between aircraft that were not peers, an early p51 had far weaker wings than later models but people are choosing a p51d to compare against a mk2 spit, for the raf in the period leading up to the bob the choce wasnt big, a hurricane, spit, hawk75 and a couple of french aircraft out of which the spit and hurricane are clearly superior. Then you hit the hurricanes problem it was like the p40 and erly p51 no match for a 109 at altitude, now with spit having the ability to take on the 109 at altitude meant that there wasnt a safe altitude something that would have existed with a hurricane only force

    Now the point about a spits roll rate, the early models were slow compared to a fw190 but everything was, they were not bad however rolling faster than a 109, a cliped wing spit was one of the fastest rollers up to 350 plus mph not including the 190 and the mkix rolled as fast as a clipped wing mk v which is why you dont see clipped wing mk ix
    Care have to be taken on the US reports of the spits roll rate as it was a well worn mk2 that had been upgraded to mkv status and had metal control surface that were a local modification and not factory items, these used the hinges and control runs designed for the fabric ones not the revised ones introduced by vickers in fact upto the introduction of the fw190 there is little to indicate that roll rate was a hinderance to the spit

    A
    as to the guns, all mk ix and most mkv could have had 4x20mm and 4x 303 and they only got .5s with the introduction of rear tanks which meant the air bottles located in the rear of the pilot had to be moved to the outer gjn bays, reports say that pilots prefered the 303s over the .5s

    • Stewart

      Early Spit’s rate of roll was less than the early ‘stang. The Spit-V was slower and less agile than the Contemporary ‘stang. Both planes had single stage blowers that restricted their performance at altitude! So you must compare the early single stage Spit with the single stage ‘stang. The Allison engine ‘stang was good for 390 MPH or about 40 MPH faster than the single stage Spit.
      Then do not compare the Clipped, cropped and clapped Spit to the early ‘stang. as they built so few of them, they were mostly insignificant. In addition, the early ‘stang had a much stronger and much more damage tolerant wing than any war time Spitfire. Only the Post war Mks had the new wing which was as strong as the early ‘stang.
      You have to take all things as contemporaries only and if we compare all to the best plane of the war from a statistical K/L ratio, the Me-109, they are all except the P-38 in last place.
      As to rate of roll, it depends entirely on the planes speed at the time of measure. Once speed gets up there, even the P-40 had a better rate of roll than the contemporary Spitfire. The rate of roll of all AC falls off with increases in speed. ( Except for the later P-38 with it’s hydraulic boosted ailerons!)
      Finally, just because they could put four twenties in most Spits, most pilots chose not to do that because of the huge detriment to maneuverability that it caused! So while it was possible, few chose to do that. And it does not negate the tremendous detriment to effectiveness caused by wing mounted guns. So two 20s with an effective range of 270-320 yards Vs the 109 with a single 20 with a higher rate of fire and an effective Point Blank Range over 600 Meters. That is why the Germans thought that one gun in the nose was better than two in the wings.

    • Stewart

      I find it interesting that no one quotes performance figures of every model of the ~60 something different types of Spitfire? Which went through about 17 marks in war service, five different types of wings, not counting different types of tips and aileron coverings, five different types of weapons fitments, dozens of different engine types four to six different inlet types, different types of wind shields, with and WO bullet proof glass panels added both externally and internally, different radio and nav antennas, bomb and rocket racks, each and ever item produced a different set of performance figures!
      For instance just changing the inlet type dropped 8 MPH and adding the cannons dropped 8 more MPH. The external BP windshield dropped 4-6 MPH and the deeper radiator for the more powerful engines that was retro fitted to many early planes also dropped speed which was only made good at very high power setting rarely used.
      But that is not so egregious as the fact that many here quote performance figures for planes built in batches under 100 each? How about we limit the arguments to types of planes built in numbers of at least 1000 each?
      Finally, I have never comp’d the Spit to the D’stang. My sole example is the P-51&A with the single stage Allison engine with it’s top speed of 390 MPH and a Maximum Continuous speed of 365 MPH!
      See Wiki; However, the Allison engine in the P-51A had a single stage supercharger that caused power to drop off rapidly after 15,000 ft. This made it completely unsuitable for combat at the altitudes USAAF bombers planned to fly. Following the RAF’s initial disappointing experience with the Mustang 1 (P-51A) Ronald Harker from Rolls Royce suggested fitting a Merlin 61, as fitted to the Spitfire Mk IX. The Merlin 61 had a two speed two stage intercooled supercharger, designed by Stanley Hooker of Rolls Royce[36] and this gave an increase in horsepower from the Allison’s 1,200 to 1,620 (or 1,720 in War Emergency Power) an increase of top speed from 390 mph to 440 mph as well as raising the service ceiling to almost 42,000 ft.
      I find it interesting that the P-51/P-51A was been built in America in 1941 and could have replaced the Spit on English production lines in that same year, Had the Government chosen to do so! With the was at a stalemate this could have been done provided that the RAF not make cross channel missions which proved so devastating to the RAF with K/L ratios of 1/4.5 & 1/7.
      The effort to make the last ~15,000 Spits could have made ~45-50,000 ‘stangs? Which do you think would have made a greator contribution to the war?

      • oldbutnotwise

        The problem with this are many and fatal but a few points, using the P51 instead of spits for sweeps in europe would have resulted in similar losses as it was the tactic that was flawed not the aircraft, range played little in the scheme of things try actually looking at the history not the headlines, losses in these sweeps were mainly flak the only contact with the Luftwaffe were when the germans could rely on a massive advantage of either numbers and/or situation.

        As for replacing the Spit by P51 exactly how would you do this? stop production of the primary fighter for 6 months while you retool? so stopping production in the middle of the BOB would be a good idea? adn to replace the Spit with another low to medium height fighter – again a good idea that, and bear in mind that the first deliveries to front line squadrons of p51 was october 41 that about a year without the primary frontline fighter

        and even then you give the advantage to the luftwaffe – the 109 being far supeior to both the Hurricane and the P51a at altitude whold have let the german rule the high ground just as they did in Russia and see what happen there.

    • Stewart Davies

      Oldbutnotwise
      There is a lot of comparisons going on between aircraft that were not peers, an early p51 had far weaker wings than later models but people are choosing a p51d to compare against a mk2 spit, for the raf in the period leading up to the bob the choce wasnt big, a hurricane, spit, hawk75 and a couple of french aircraft out of which the spit and hurricane are clearly superior. Then you hit the hurricanes problem it was like the p40 and erly p51 no match for a 109 at altitude, now with spit having the ability to take on the 109 at altitude meant that there wasnt a safe altitude something that would have existed with a hurricane only force
      Answer to above; The Single stage Spit was no match for the variable speed blowered Me-109 at higher altitudes. The single stage Spit was more of a dog than the single stage ‘stang, if you believe placard data.

      Now the point about a spits roll rate, the early (ALL!) models were slow compared to a fw190 but everything was, they were not bad however rolling faster than a 109, (But only at low speed!) a cliped wing spit was one of the fastest rollers up to 350 plus mph not including the 190 and the mkix rolled as fast as a clipped wing mk v which is why you dont see clipped wing mk ix ( Wrong again! You do not see clipped wing Mk-XIVs because they were fast enough to catch buzz bombs WO the extra effort involved! Also, I do not believe that the Mk-XIV was that quick a rolling plane!)
      Care have to be taken on the US reports of the spits roll rate as it was a well worn mk2 that had been upgraded to mkv status and had metal control surface that were a local modification and not factory items, these used the hinges and control runs designed for the fabric ones not the revised ones introduced by vickers in fact upto the introduction of the fw190 there is little to indicate that roll rate was a hinderance to the spit

      After re-reading this post, I felt compelled to point out a few things. The Spit’s rate of roll was not competitive with just about any plane in real world combat which mostly happened at speeds over 250 MPH, IF you wanted to stay alive! Based on RAF test numbers. It did not become competitive with any plane in this part of the envelope until the Mk-24 with it’s new Trapezoidal, Laminar Flow, Torsion Box Wing based on that of the P-51! Or using ideas copied from the P-51!

      • oldbutnotwise

        point them out by all means but how about countering them with facts and not opinion, the early spits out rolled a large majority of its competition especially the 109, yes it had problems in the roll at high speed – speeds only achievable in a dive this was improved further by the new hinge ad balance weights of the MKIX onwards roll rate were not an issue with later Spits and the MKXIV could comfortably out roll most aircraft – now if you want a bad roll aircraft look no further than your P38 one of the worse rolling aircraft in service until it got power assist in 45.
        as for staying alive the MKIX out performed the FW190 and the Me109 at all altitude so much so the Luftwaffe posted warning to avoid combat with them if possible something it was never concered about with P51 (in fact the main advantage the P51 had and what made its kills ratio so good was the fact that it outnumbered the 109/190s it engaged by a factor of at leadt 4:1 – heavily outnumbering the opponent is even more effective that being able to out roll them ) by the way certainly upto 42 the average combat speed was in the 250mph range unless it was a bounce and buy your own argument the majority of those the target never knew about it so roll rate was irrelevant

        other facts – the MK24 used a DIFFERENT profile laminar wing to the mustang and its intrnal structure was not silmiar to the P51 any more than it was to the P47 or fw190, and you will find that the P51 owed more to the Spitfire than the otherway round as North maerican were supply with a large amount of data on the Spit whilst designing the P51

  9. Stewart Davies

    One point at a time.
    There was nothing wrong with the tactic of Fighter Sweeps over Europe from England, we did it for two years, never suffering the losses the RAF did at any point in the war. P-38s and P-47s, both supposedly terrible “Dog Fighters” had positive K/L Ratios on fighter sweeps over Europe, something the Spit never had during the entire war! In fact, the only planes to have positive K/L Ratios Vs the various Me-109s were the three American types mentioned so far. ( But that does not make them superior planes, they just has strategic advantages of position.) Also adding AAA into the argument only makes things worse for the fragile Spitfire because the previously mentioned K/L Ratios were for A2A Combat and did not take into account losses to AAA!
    The fault with your logic, is that it’s not logical at all. The problem with claiming it was the tactics is that it should have happened to us too, but it did not. As I have stated all along, it was the Spit’s lack of range that killed it’s pilots over France, not the tactics. This worked in two ways. First, in order to fly there and back at all, part, if not most of the trip had to be made at “Most Economical” cruising speed, or the plane landed in the drink even if it was NOT attacked. Either they had to fly out and back over the Channel at between 190-220 MPH, and, or depending on how deep they flew into France, and how you define “Combat Cruise” in the RAF, that meant they were also restricted in how much throttle they used when not in actual combat for the five minutes that they could use full throttle! This second part is the bear, in that if the missions were close to the coast, they could cruise over the Channel at slow speeds, fly around at about 300 MPH for much less than 1/2 hour and fly back over the channel just as slow, or land in the drink. Or if they had to fly inland for more than a few dozen miles, they either had to fly slow all the way to the AO, go fast, 250-300 MPH, for 10-15 minutes and then fly ALL THE WAY home at 190-220 MPH, or fly slow AFTER leaving the AO. These slow speeds depended entirely on the Spit and not the pilots choice. Because the lighter the EEW, the slower they had to fly to stretch the gas to get home. ( Early Marks with RCMGs and Merlin’s were stuck at 190-195 MPH depending on equipment, while cannon armed, Merlin engined marks could go 195-200 MPH and the Griffon engined planes could go, depending on weight, between 210 and 220 MPH!) That is what I mean by throttle restrictions and slow!
    Secondly, They were making Spits in many shadow factories and did not have to change over production at the same time in every one. They could have forgone the fighter sweeps and the terrible losses that went with them and stayed on their side of the channel where the fuel considerations would have been on their side while they changed over. Then the NAZIs would have been on the loosing end of the stick.
    Thirdly, The early 109 was not vastly superior to the Allison engined Mustang. In fact it was a tu*d at low altitude where the early ‘stang was as much as 70 MPH faster and had a higher rate of roll too! It was also faster than the Fw-190, but not as quick in the roll! The beauty of this is that on fighter sweeps is that the NAZIs have to choose, go up and fight, or let the marauding Mustangs fly all over France and Western Germany, shooting up any thing they see! Because of the Spit’s terribly short range, endurance and persistence, they had to fly more or less straight to and from the air fields they were attacking. This was a bad idea and they all knew it at the time! But the big wigs at the RAF thought that they “should be doing something to harass the Jerry” and were willing to risk men’s lives because “We can’t just sit around doing nothing!” Which with 20-20 hind sight is exactly what they should have been doing. ( Nothing, that is.)
    One last argument; After the first test flight of the Mustang, the RAF should have said, “This is so much better than the kites we have, we should start making plans to replace them with it now!”
    While there are better and lesser counter arguments to be made against all of the above, this is the single stupidest thing the RAF Fighter Command did, or more correctly, did not do, during the war!
    PS. Just to be absolutely positive about this point; There is not one single part of the performance envelope, besides rate of climb that the early Allison Engined Mustang does not beat the pants off of the Mk-I through Mk-V Spitfires! All I have to do to prove that point, is change the parameters to those that favor the ‘stang and hurt the Spit. Because the faster plane is in command of the fight, it’s pilot gets to make those choices. The pilot of the slower plane gets to cope, or die.

    • Oldbutnotwise

      A long winded and inaccurate response, the biggest point being that the a36 and p51a where not available earlier enough despite the might of th us industrial might, fitting the merlin did improve the aircraft beyond all reconition, but it is worth noting that the airframe got an upgrade as did the wings, but the aircraft resulting was a beaut it was in all respect bar one inferior to the spit now the us had a need for long range escorts after the failure of daylight unescorted bombers the UK didnt, even p51d used by the UK had a range only margin superior to the spit so using range as a knock down is dishonest, as 90 % of loses during the leaning into France were due to flak I doubt your argument holds water but as it’s extremely short of detail but heavy on unsupported oppinion it’s difficult to decide, your main argument seem to be that what the us did in late 44 means that the UK should have used the us fighter available in 42

      • Stewart Davies

        You are right, it is long winded. But it is accurate in every point! You mention fitting the Merlin, but I made no mention of that. The Spitfire Mk-I through Mk-V were all single stage Merlins and were easily inferior to the Single stage Allison powered Mustang. You mention that the Spit was superior to the ‘stang in all respects but one, hardly. Then you mention range of the two planes. The early ‘stang had a range of 700 miles. No combat capable Spit manufactured and flown in actual service during WW-II had much more than a 400-450 mile range. No Spit had a “Cruising Speed” at “any given throttle setting” as high as the Mustang. I should in all candor say when comparing single stage engines, etc, to same and two stage engines, etc.
        Finally, you claim that 90% of Spit losses were to AAA, the Germans dispute this.
        You put words in my mouth I did not say so you could make my argument look silly. But what I did state is that the Brits should have put the early Mustang in production in stead of the Spitfire during 1941! After all, they were eager to P-40s for C’s sake!

        In April 1940[12] the British government established a purchasing commission in the United States, headed by Sir Henry Self.[13] Self was given overall responsibility for Royal Air Force (RAF) production and research and development, and also served with Sir Wilfrid Freeman, the Air Member for Development and Production. Self also sat on the British Air Council Sub-committee on Supply (or “Supply Committee”) and one of his tasks was to organize the manufacturing and supply of American fighter aircraft for the RAF. At the time, the choice was very limited, as no U.S. aircraft then in production or flying met European standards, with only the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk coming close. The Curtiss-Wright plant was running at capacity, so P-40s were in short supply.[14]

        North American Aviation (NAA) was already supplying its Harvard trainer to the RAF, but was otherwise underutilized. NAA President “Dutch” Kindelberger approached Self to sell a new medium bomber, the B-25 Mitchell. Instead, Self asked if NAA could manufacture the Tomahawk (the British designation for early models of the P-40) under license from Curtiss. Kindelberger said NAA could have a better aircraft with the same engine in the air sooner than establishing a production line for the P-40. The Commission stipulated armament of four .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, the Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engine (as used on the Tomahawk), a unit cost of no more than $40,000, and delivery of the first production aircraft by January 1941.[15] In March 1940, 320 aircraft were ordered by Sir Wilfred Freeman who had become the executive head of the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP), and the contract was promulgated on 24 April.[16]

      • Oldbutnotwise

        So you reckon that a country basicly at the front line and suffering massive shortages could get the p51 a year ealier than the US did despite the fact that redrawing all the engineering drawings would have taken months IF you could find the draftsmen so what should we have done in the meantime, use hurricanes that were already inferior to the 109e let alone the f model as was the p40 which was always inferior to the front line 109,

  10. oldbutnotwise

    what rubbish you spout, you conveniently look at USAAF > 43 and compare to RF 41/42 and think there is a relationship! you think that attacking fixed defended positions are the same as attacking an army in retreat! you claim that the spits didnt have the fuel yet acknowledge that they performed A2G on the return something that would have been prohibited if fuel was so tight. you provide no evidence that fuel was a killer in fact you say that they actually increased fuel usage to counter the FW190 how if they were already so fatally short?
    also when you say full throttle i assume you mean emergency use as there was no 5 minute restriction on full throttle, the Idea of swapping to an untried fighter in 41 (as the p51 was at that point) when you were already producing a very capable fighter would have been extremely dangerous even if successful, and if the P51 was so obviously superior why did the US continue to produce the P40?

    Yes the poilcy was wrong but that policy was set bu the politicians not the front line (although pilots in the frontline units would have probably ignored any such restriction just as they did in early 40 )

    after the test filight of the first model p51 the brits didnt think this is so much better as it wasnt, it was in fact inferior to the mkIX which entered service only 1 month after the P51 (lets ignore the MkII as it was already classed as obsolete before the P51 first flew) whilst it was a decent low level aircraft it was completely outclassed at altitude so they bought them for low level work to release Spits doing that job and Hurricanes which had become completely outclassed.
    This just reads as you dont like the spit and try to deflame it

    • Stewart Davies

      PP-1 Answer! Cut and paste the part of any of my posts that states 1943 in any of my comps. In fact I never made any of the claims you say I did in your first PP. I never mentioned A2G in any post. ( Except to state the Spit’s frail nature.) Re-read my post above. You missed the entire point, where I explained the entire fuel problem. In detail! But one more try; When the individual plane takes off, it only has so much fuel on board. I was not talking about the shortage of fuel in the UK. If it flies slow, it can go far. In the Spit’s case about 400 miles. But only if it does not advance the throttle 1/16″ for the entire flight or have to divert to a secondary field that is not socked in. But advance the throttle for five minutes at combat power and the “Radius” drops to about 100-110 miles, but only IF the Spit flies home at 195-220 MPH! Look at a map of the south of England, the Channel and NW France.
      The “increased fuel usage” I mentioned is the difference between cruise and full throttle, not strategic reserves. Over France, they could not use full throttle WO risking the trip home as a turkey. So it goes like this, fly to France at 250-300 MPH, engage in combat for five minutes and fly home at 195 MPH, or Fly over the channel at 195, speed up to 250-300 over the coast of France for 15 minutes, engage in combat for 5 minutes, then fly home at 195!
      PP-2 Answer! We made ALL of the dozen or so types, not just P-51s! Over 100,000 fighters of all types!

      PP-3 Answer! So much for your research;
      In 1940, after receiving a request in March of that year from the Ministry of Aircraft Production for a high-rated (40,000 ft (12,000 m)) Merlin for use as an alternative engine to the turbocharged Hercules VIII used in the prototype high-altitude Vickers Wellington V bomber, Rolls-Royce started experiments on the design of a two-stage supercharger and an engine fitted with this was bench-tested in April 1941, eventually becoming the Merlin 60.[45]

      The Mustang’s first flight was in October 1940. So the first flight of the ‘stang predated the Mk-IX by almost a year! It took them a long time to put the engine into production and even longer to make the changes to the Spit it required!

      Well-known Spitfire pilots included “Johnnie” Johnson (34 enemy aircraft shot down),[102] who flew the Spitfire right through his operational career from late 1940 to 1945. Douglas Bader (20 e/a) and “Bob” Tuck (27 e/a) flew Spitfires and Hurricanes during the major air battles of 1940, and both were shot down and became prisoners of war while flying Spitfires over France in 1941 and 1942.[103] Paddy Finucane (28–32 e/a) scored all his successes in the fighter before disappearing over the English Channel in July 1942.[104] Some notable Commonwealth pilots were George Beurling (31 1⁄3 e/a) from Canada, “Sailor” Malan (27 e/a) from South Africa,[105] New Zealanders Alan Deere (17 e/a) and C F Gray (27 e/a)[106][107] and the Australian Hugo Armstrong (12 e/a).[108]

      As you can see, they bought the Mustang to augment Spitfires Mk-I/II/III & possibly V before they asked Rolls Royce about building the two stage-two speed Merlin that made the Mk-IX Spitfire!

      • Oldbutnotwise

        Johnson was shot down by ground fire, Bader was hit by friendly fire so hardly support you, the spit mk ix entered service 1 month after the p51 so your argument is wrong, it does not matter when the first one flew as it is the service that only matters, the fact that the p51 took so long to get to squadron service points to the big flaw in your argument if you don’t have the spit you have no suitable fighter for over a year, oh and the mix didn’t have the issue of the wings falling off if used agressively that the p51 did, as for the rr engined p51 this only just beat the mkxiv into service and yet you only compare the p51 against the mk1 to 5, that’s just dishonest

      • Oldbutnotwise

        Actually it didn’t take that much to get the 45 into the spit in fact it was fitter to a mkv airframe first and even had updates that were originally intended for the mk3 compare that to the year it took to get the p51 into service or 2 years for the fw190

      • oldbutnotwise

        another point the mkIII was always intended to have the two stage merlin but the supply was diverted to defiant and hurricanes to try to prolong there effective lives – so even at that point it was realised that the Hurricane need help

      • Stewart Davies

        Wow! Were to start on the four posts above? Please re-read the post just above your first. Service dates are related to the planes history, not competitions between types. You assert that the ‘stang was frail and you could pull the wings off? You can do that to any plane from that era. The ‘stang, every Mustang, was a much tougher bird than any spit that flew during the war. Search for pics of shot up spits and count the holes. There aren’t any with the kind of damage shown in hundreds of American planes that made it back. Any shell, regardless of caliber that exploded close to the main spar knocked the Spit down. Any tracer bullet from a small caliber machine gun, not even a canon shell, that perforated the fuel tank, burned the pilot, if it did not detonate the fumes and destroy the plane instantly.
        Part the second; The single stage blown Allison engine made the ‘stang better in almost every way to the early spit! Mk-V and prior to be sure, and below 15,000’ a very close second to the Mk-IX in the categories that did not matter and better in those that did. It was faster at low altitudes. Zoom-climbed higher. Rolled faster and did not tear the tail off the plane if the pilot pulled pitch to hard, or fast. It was an very much better gun platform with more effective weapons. The pilot’s seat back armor was thicker as was the windshield glass. be careful to remember I am comping the early single stage ‘stang-A to the all Spits prior to, and including the Mk-IX with it’s two stage-two speed blown Merlin!
        As far as I can remember, I have never comp’d the later ‘stangs to anything.
        The two stage Merlin was never meant for the Hurry and was much later than the Mustang time line of interest here concerning a replacement for the Spitfire.
        A point of fact; The Purchasing commission that bought the Mustang was shopping for P-40s and bought the Mustang after it’s first flight! This is the crucial point in time where if they had been brighter, they could have started the process to replace the Spit WITH OUT causing all of those numerous problems that are collectively brought up in this thread. ( In some ways, the P-40 was a better plane than the early Spit! 700 Mile Range @ 75% Throttle Vs 400 miles at 45% according to the early spec sheets.)
        ALL other arguments are fallacious! The Spit WAS a nightmare to build! The Mustang was easier and faster to build than the Hurry and a much better plane than the Spit at that point in time. Future Spits would leapfrog the early ‘stang, but never would have seen the light of day had the RAF made the right choices way back when! Think Contra-prop’d Griffon Mustang at 505 MPH!
        Finally, the Mk-45 Merlin installation into the Spit was a pain in the tail! Literally! The two stage-two speed engine was longer and heavier causing C-G problems that made people’s hair curl! There were huge problems. The crank was now over a foot farther forward, not to mention the several hundred extra pounds ahead of the firewall and all the extra plumbing for the extra big radiator. Easy? Right! I do not understand how you can think it was easy?

  11. Stewart Davies

    You think I am anti-Spitfire, but I am not! I am pro Lightning / P-38L!
    There are two “Best Planes” of WW-II and it depends on what criteria you use to rank them to know which is best!
    Those two planes are the Me-109 and P-38. The P-38L wins all the important aerodynamic performance tests, and is the best weapons platform, while the Me-109 is the “Stealthiest” fighter plane of WW-II. (Think small!) It also shot down more planes than any other type. ( One way to decide which is the best fighter plane of WW-II!)
    All other planes have more numerous faults and, or fewer, or lesser quality advantages.

  12. Stewart Davies

    Spitfire’s revenge: A rebuttal of the anti-Spitfire article, by Jon Lake:
    I think he’s wrong on both counts. The Hurricane was undeniably important, and shot down more enemy aircraft than the Spitfire, but that was inevitable, given that there were more of them, often flown by more experienced pilots and squadrons, and that they were often sent against the easier targets – bombers, dive bombers and Bf 110s. And there is little doubt that a Fighter Command exclusively equipped with Spitfires would have done even better.

    I would dispute the entire idea of this PP. First the “easier targets” are easier to find and catch, but very much harder to soot down, particularly with RCMGs! ( Rifle Caliber Machine Guns) They were equipped with armor that made large parts of them immune to those smaller bullets. At longer ranges, the engines were too tough to damage even WO armor to RCMGs. You had to rely on hitting much smaller ancillary equipment like, the radiator, it’s hoses and oil cooler to stop the engine. Because the crew was also protected by armor, the largest vulnerable area of the plane was it’s fuel tanks.
    This brings up part two of my argument. The early Spit was a terrible gun platform, possibly the single worst of the war? Two parts to this;
    First; Because the guns were poorly mounted, the cone of fire from each gun was very wide! 1.1 Meter in diameter at 100 M, and because they were widely spaced in the wing the eight bullet streams were widely divergent at all points on the trajectory but the range at which they were Zeroed!
    This had two effects.
    First, less than perfectly aimed busts did little damage.
    Secondly, the density of bullets per unit area of the target was lower than the same 8 RCMGs in the Hurricane. This made getting hits on those smaller ancillary parts much harder. ( The hurry was also a very much better gun platform!)

    The second part of the argument is that the Spit was “quick to follow your every move” so much so that it was twitchy ( or “snaky” according the the RAF test pilots!) when you tried to hold it steady on target. This fact was made worse by the introduction of four and then so very much worse buy five bladed props that the Mk-XIV’s entry into service was delayed by almost a year after it’s first flight.

    So this part of the argument is not sound. More Hurrys would have done a better job!

    • oldbutnotwise

      the pit 14 was delayed due to problems encountered by spinning the engine the opposite direction and the problems caused by that on take off, once airborne the issues were not significant hence the dropping of the contra props from the mk14

      but bottom line re the spitfire and hurricane, its a documented fact that if you were flying a Spit you
      a/ had a better chance of scoring a kill
      b/ had less chance of being shot down
      c/ a better chance of surviving being shot down

      I would say that these three basic facts show that the Spit was the way to go

      • Stewart

        True, there were problems due to spinning the engine the wrong way, at least comp’d to the original design. But they were minor and due entirely to the pilots previous training to cope with engine torque reversed from before.
        The Spit XIV never had contra props that I know of, please furnish data.
        The largest Spitfire problem started with the Mk-IX and it’s much more powerful engine and four bladed prop. In that, the plane was no longer properly stabilized by the Vert-stab/rudder and Horizontal-stab/elevators after the addition of so much surface area forward of the C-G and required excessive pilot input to fly. The problem was marginal in the Mk-IX, but terrible in the Mk-XIV with it’s larger five bladed prop and even more power. It was positively twitchy, and all the other adjectives they used back then! The problem delayed success until after a much larger tail empennage was installed. All you have to do to know this beyond all doubt, is to look at pictures of the Development planes by date of manufacture to see the huge new tails. As further proof, look at the pictures of the first kill in type to see that he had the big tail and none of the previous pilots who had the small tails, ever scored.
        All three of your assertions are urban legends, of sorts. The top scoring Squadron flew Hurries, as did the safest Squadron. As to horrible burns suffered by pilots, every plane with a fuel tank in the fuse and ahead of the pilot was equally bad and guilty! But Spits were the worst because of the difficulty opening the side swinging canopy which caused their pilots to burn for a longer time after a hit in the tank.
        I would state that your faulty assertions show the Hurry to be the BoB plane of choice for the RAF! Not counting their many other advantages previously listed.

  13. Steve Dovey

    I agree with everything said by Mr Lake with one exception. The firepower of the spitfire didn’t need to be “fixed”. Their rifle calibre bullets were a deliberate decision by the air ministry to give the pilot the best possible chance of raking his opponent with bullets in the few milliseconds he was likely to have him in his sights. At the time, one or two cannons would have had a much slower rate of fire than eight 0.303 machine guns so to hit an aircraft with even one cannon shell would have needed a great deal of luck unless your opponent was a sitting duck!

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